Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ring Mountain, Aug 27

The gorgeous views from Turtle Rock
Ok, so it is no secret that I am not the biggest fan of the climbing areas in the immediate Bay Area.  There are a few nice sport routes at Boyscout Rock near Mount Diablo, and I like the two 11s on Billy Goat at Castle Rock, but there is certainly no equivalent of Lincoln Woods for San Francisco.  I burned through most of the Bay Area climbs I am capable of doing in my first few years in the area, and since then have sucked it up and gone to the Sierras.  I was having a lazy Saturday, and didn't want to go to the gym, so I went to do some solo bouldering at Ring Mountain. 

There are a bunch of highball v0-v1s at Turtle Rock
I last went there 6 years ago with my friend Dave, and his high school buddy, Andy.  I started out at Split Rock, where I played around on the traverse, then did Split Slab (5.6).  Yes, that is 5.6, and not v0 or is a bit high, but very easy.  Next, I did all of the v1s at Turtle Rock, then hiked around a bit after.  These two boulders are in a spectacular setting with great views of Mt Tam, Mount Diablo in the distance, East Bay, and San Francisco (which was socked in with fog).  The climbing is generally ok, but the feet are all quite polished, and the rock quality isn't always the best.  Overall, it is definitely worth a visit for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A new rugged point and shoot!

Nikon Rumors is reporting that Nikon is about to release a new rugged point and shoot!  The stats on this one seem superior to anything on the market (1080p @30fps AND 720p @60fps, 16mp, etc).  Also, it has a cool method for switching modes where you can shake the camera to change parameters!  This makes me feel a bit better about losing my camera on Unicorn.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Squamish, Aug 12-14

The Vancouver Convention center: my home for 3 days.  This place felt like a real life architectural drawing.  After thinking about photon beams and volume rendering for 3 days straight, I did a 180 and headed into the mountains.
If my job and education have taught me anything, it is that the unknown is interesting and alluring.  It was hard to keep this in mind while driving north on 99 away from Vancouver and into the anxiety inducing unknown.  It was getting dark, and I didn't have a campsite, and all I knew was that I was heading for a big cliff an hour and change away.  I found the cliff after narrowly missing crashing my car after gawking at the golden hour light raining down on the mountain-lined Howe Sound.  The parking lot was surprisingly full for a Thursday night, as my frantic search for an empty site ensued.  I'm pretty sure I snatched the last one from a local leaving for a few days.
I definitely shouldn't be taking pictures from my car.

I met James that night while in the parking lot brushing my teeth.  He excitedly approached me, guidebook in hand as I stumbled over words and tried not to spray toothpaste spit in his face.  He flipped through the pages pointing out 15 pitch 5.10s, that I responded to with mumbles about doing some 5.8s.  We settled on Calculus Crack (5.8), and extensions if we were feeling ambitious.
Looking north from Memorial Ledge

I woke up early to head to town to finish my transformation dirtbag climber by purchasing the obligatory block of cheese as my main source of food for the remainder of the trip.  James and I met up in the parking lot at 9am, bushwacked our way through the first two pitches of Calculus where the fun began with a cruxy finger crack.  I wobbled a bit on lead but pushed through, and we finished up near Memorial Ledge.  After talking to a couple of foul-mouthed Canadians, I decided to hit Memorial Crack (5.9).  It felt easier than Calculus with a few funny toe jams at the crux. 

We noticed that we could continue all the way up to the top of the Chief at 5.9, but we weren't sure about how to avoid 10c, so we walked off and went to town to get some beta on Skywalker (5.9) at Shannon Falls.   We figured, starting late would result in no lines at the recently-cleaned classic.  The problem is, there were lines.  And slow climbers.  In fact, they were even slower than those Jacob and I had found at the Leap the week before.  We bailed after the first pitch, and both lead the foot and hand tiring, but amazingly classic line, Klahanie Crack (5.7).  After getting some good food at the Howe Sound Brewery, I passed out in my tent.  700+ feet of climbing crack for the day is tiring!
James cleaning Klahanie Crack

I started day two solo with a bouldering pad on my back.  I walked into the Grand Wall bouldering area, and quickly realized it woulnd't be hard to find people to climb with since all the classic problems were occupied by friendly looking groups.  I met a BC local, Chris, warming up on a v2, who I followed to do some easy climbs with, namely the classic v0, Fried Ant.  He gave me the beta for Anatomy Lesson (v3), which went easily.  Titanic (another classic v3) didn't go as well, and I couldn't get past the first few moves even after 10 tries and lots of encouragement from friendly folks from Pennsylvania.  Mildly discouraged, I moved on and sent the classic v2, Slingshot.  By 4 pm, my fingers were shot, so I called it a day.
Taking down my tent :-(

Sunday was my last in Squamish, and I woke up sore as hell from the previous day's bouldering.  I packed up my quiet campsite, and headed back into the Grand Wall area alone.  Early on, I ran into Jody, a nice older guy who lives in a van and travels the west coast climbing.  He showed me around and helped me with beta on a variety of v2s.  I tried a nice v3, Bobo Jones, and while I made good progress on the Lincoln Woods-esque traverse, I couldn't finish it.  Next trip!  My best send came right at the end when I finished the rather highball Old and Serious (v3) without a spotter and with several large falls.  That was a good place to end it, but I tried a v2 slab afterward, and bailed without the send to head back to the airport.
Old and Serious - mildly serious, but not that bad
I'm pretty convinced at this point that Squamish is my favorite climbing area I have been to.  The rock is grippy in ways you don't see much in Yosemite, and the climbs are friendlier without tons of chimneys or laybacks.  I love straight in cracks and bouldering with nice landings, and Squamish delivers.  I have so many projects I want to finish now, and three days was not enough to fully explore this gem.  I'll be coming back again soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gear Explosion!

The gear explosion in its full glory

Two months of weekend excursions has left me with a rather large gear explosion on my floor.  I promised myself that I had to clean it up before writing my Squamish trip report.

Holy $#!+ it is gone!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cache Creek, Aug 7

Ok, I'm really short on time here, but this post simply won't happen if I don't get it written up today since I'm heading off to Vancouver for the week early tomorrow morning.  Justin, Josh, Erica and I went to do the Rumsey section of Cache Creek.  We got an early start, and were ready to hit the water around 9:30am.  Erica and Josh rented an inflatable kayak, while Justin and I brought our packrafts. 
This field of thorny/painful bushes were freaking awful.

While they got set up with their kayak, Justin and I hiked upstream for a half mile, crossed over some rusty barbed wire, then ran through a field of pricker bushes on private land to get a bit more of rapids in.  Things started off quickly with my first self-navigated class II section, but Justin and I pulled through, quickly realizing the utility of the spray deck. 
Me trying to avoid being seen while putting in...people seemed to be serious about their private land up there

We reached Erica and Josh's put-in site, but they weren't there since they had thought we had already started.  We booked it upstream, not knowing if they thought we were in front of them or not.  Luckily, we ran into them waiting 10 minutes later.  From here, the four of us enjoyed the various sections of class II-class III- whitewater, stopping occasionally to dump water from our boats, eat food, and swim around in the rapids. 
Staying close together in some fun rapids

There were two bridges during the section, with terrific rapids following both.  The first bridge (a dam?) required a portage, and had a sustained and awesome II+ section that followed.  I was paddling through when I heard two guys on a rock screaming to me "HELP HIM OOOOUUUT!"  I look over and Justin's blue packraft was upside down floating next to me.  "SHIT" I thought, but then I saw his smiling face pop up out of the water between my raft and his.  He was fine, but swam the entire rapid, repeatedly trying to get into his raft.  The backpack made it difficult to flip over in the water, and the constant laughter I was enduring made it difficult to concentrate on the rapids. 
Justin trying to get back into his raft after his wet exit adventure

The second bridge had the only class III section, with a guide telling everyone to stay right.  This was shorter than the superior II+, but also really fun with some very fast moving water and a big hole. 

It was a good mix of adrenaline pumping action and napping in the boats
After this, we had some more fun IIs and general good times before we left.  We headed to Napa where we ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Ubuntu.  It is probably the best vegetarian food I've ever had during my lifelong career as a non meat eater.  One tip: get the "family style" meal - it lets everyone try many of their dishes in very large quantity.  SO GOOD!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lover's Leap, July 31

Looking towards the main cliff band at the Leap.  Unfortunately, this is my only photo, and it was taken with my iPhone. :-(
Jacob and I were planning on climbing Whiskey Bill (5.7) on Fresno Dome, which is a rather unknown climb not currently published in guidebooks.  I've heard about it through the grapevine and on various websites, and the solid granite and dramatic chickenheads were enticing.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast was dicey with thunderstorms on the prowl, so we headed to Lover's Leap on Sunday to knock off some classic climbs I've wanted to do for ages.

We woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday morning to darkness and a pile of climbing gear to shepherd into my car.  We arrived at the Leap parking lot just as all the hungover climbers were waking up and sorting gear.  This seemed like a great opportunity to jump on the classic climbs, and we booked it up to Corrugation Corner (5.7).  Jacob wasn't particularly happy with the strenuous approach, and was convinced there was an easier way to the base.  Unfortunately, there isn't, but our early morning exertion meant we were the first ones on one of the most popular climbs in California.

The climb starts out with sustained, but well protected stemming.  This was my first experience with the famously steep dikes of the Leap since my usual hangout at the more mellow Hogsback doesn't feature this formation quite as prominently.  Even when it is steep, the dikes protrude out and provide nice horizontal footholds, thus reducing those fear-inducing tenuous stances.  The first pitch ended after a nice and exposed hand traverse to a great belay ledge.  The second pitch continued up the dihedral to the famously exposed 5.7 arete.  Everyone says it is the steepest 5.7 anywhere, but I'm not sure if those individuals have climbed High Exposure at the Gunks, which is steeper and rated 5.6.  Regardless, this is an incredible pitch with tons of exposure, and runout moves on a pointy arete.  It ended with a laughter-inducing belly flop move onto a sloping ledge to belay from.  I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard while climbing.

The third pitch started with a stupid 5.7 chimney.  I hate chimneys, and luckily this one was easy since it had many holds inside it.  Regardless, I could only get 1 piece in the first 20 or so feet when I exited the chimney onto an exposed ledgy hand traverse.  I had been dangling my pack from my harness for the chimney, so I threw it back on, climbed a bit more, placed a nut, and went to grab a sling from my shoulder.  Whoops, my pack was now over the slings in what had become a topological nightmare.  My feet weren't quite so good, and I was rather runout now, so I very carefully took my pack off and reordered it with my slings.  With all the nervous clipping and careful movement, my chalk bag belt become undone and I watched it fly down past Jacob after I clipped the gear.  This was unfortunate since I've been known to chalk up often enough to warrant keeping a large laundry bottle of chalk in my car at all times.  There was no turning back, so I continued up, but the crack felt way harder than the mellow 3rd pitch described in the guidebook.  It was a steep and technical crack with very little pro and mediocre feet.  Regardless, I didn't think much of it, but later realized this was the 5.8 variation.

Jacob and I finished Corrugation, ate some lunch, then went to the base of Bear's Reach to finish our day of classic 5.7s.  Unfortunately, there was a group just starting, but given that it was still early and we'd been efficient thus far, we decided to wait it out.  The group commented that they weren't the fastest in the world, but we had no idea they'd be as slow as they were.  In fact, I don't know if I've ever seen a group as naturally slow and lazy as they were.  We waited for an hour or so and they hadn't really finished the first pitch, so we left them and the dark clouds overhead to go to Hogwild.  This ended up being a fun 5.7 pitch with runout tough face moves and sparse gear placements leading to a fun hand and finger crack.  We had a long drive back home, so we left the remaining sunlight to hit to road back to San Francisco.